24 April 2015

1.12 Basic Macarons – Advanced – Baking & Desserts

*NOTICE: This is the last “official” episode of Season 1. I will return with Season 2 on 5th June 2015!*

But aside from that, on to the recipe! Macarons are definitely the most high-maintenance, fiddly, annoying, frustrating piece of baking that I have attempted so far. So obviously, I make them quite a bit! I’m sure there’s a “glutton for punishment” joke to be made there (or vice versa).

Amazing when you get them right, but sometimes it just goes wrong, even if you do everything the same way. I’m not sure if it’s a problem with my recipe, but I have seen several people have the same issue (or worse) with other recipes, so I have chalked it up to a higher power that delights in tormenting would-be Macaronauts.

This recipe will give you the basics on how to make macarons of your own. I will probably revisit macarons from time to time in future posts as I add more flavours to my repertoire (currently I have made about a dozen different types, but there are more lurking around in the back of my mind). This is the easiest place to start.

3 large egg whites
2 cups icing sugar
1 cup almond meal
½ cup caster sugar
2 tbsp water
½ tbsp powdered egg whites (optional)

Don’t be fooled by the fact that there’s only 6 ingredients here. It’s all about how you use them!

Firstly, I would not attempt this recipe without a benchtop/stand mixer (KitchenAid, etc.). I have tried this with a handheld mixer and gotten edible results, but let’s just say that they weren’t winning any beauty pageants. Hand whisking is completely out of the question, unless you’re a robot.

You can try this without the powdered egg whites (as I used to) but they make a noticeable difference when it comes to holding shape.

I don’t have a sugar thermometer, and I can’t be bothered testing the whole “soft ball consistency” part of making sugar syrup, so I really just rely on the colour. Due to this, I’d recommend against adding any colouring to the syrup if possible.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Remember to use icing sugar (a.k.a. superfine or confectioner’s sugar) and not icing mixture (which has an anti-caking agent mixed in). It’s not the same thing and the wrong one will ruin your macarons. I learned that the hard way!


1. Preheat oven to 170°C (335°F), line a few trays with baking paper and set aside. (See note on Step 11 below for lining tips.)

2. Place the caster sugar and water into a pot over high heat and allow to melt together. (DO NOT STIR. You can swirl the pot to mix, but be careful, you don’t want to get melted sugar on yourself! It’s basically sweet Napalm. You can also add liquid/gel flavourings at this point, just try to use something that won’t change the colour too much!)

3. Once the sugar syrup has started bubbling, place the egg whites (including the powdered ones) into the benchtop mixer bowl and gradually turn up to the highest speed. (You don’t want to start at the fastest speed right away as it can ruin your mixer, unless the manual says otherwise.)

4. Once the sugar syrup has changed to an amber honey colour remove it from the heat. (This is the time some people would be checking that their sugar thermometer is at 115°C (or 240°F), or dipping in a spoon to see if the syrup is at “soft ball consistency”, or slaughtering a chicken to appease the Baking Gods. Or whatever. Basically, don’t pay any attention to them.)

5. The egg whites should have formed soft peaks by this time, so slowly drizzle the sugar syrup into the egg whites (while the mixer is still on the highest speed) until all of the syrup has been poured in. (This is the point where you can add in gel colourings if you want to. If you want to use powder colourings, add it with the dry ingredients. Don’t use liquid colourings or you’ll change the consistency and may compromise the end result.)

6. Leave the mixer going for another 10 minutes or until the bowl is cool to the touch, then switch it off and remove the bowl.

7. Onto a sheet of baking paper, sift together the icing sugar and almond meal, ensuring that all lumps are sifted out. (I usually do this right after adding the sugar syrup to the egg whites so I can add it as soon as possible.)

8. Lifting up two edges of the baking paper, funnel the icing sugar and almond meal into the meringue.

9. Fold through gently with a spatula or metal spoon trying to retain as much air as possible. (Not too gentle, but not too rough.)

10. Once the macaron mixture is combined, transfer into piping bags.

11. Pipe the mixture onto the pre-lined trays. (You can buy silicon liners with rings already marked, or you can get a bit crafty and draw your own (make sure that you pipe onto the other side of the baking paper to the side you have drawn on), or you can just judge the sizes yourself as best you can. TIP: Pipe a small blob of the mixture into each corner of the tray and use it to stick down the baking paper.)

12. Using a bit of force, smack the baking tray flat against the bench a few times. (This isn't some weird superstitious tip, it's actually vital to the recipe. This is done to knock out any large air pocket which may ruin the look of your macarons.)

13. Allow the piped macarons to sit for 20-30 minutes or until a skin forms on the surface. (Some gentle prodding with a fingertip is probably the best way to determine this. Very scientific.)

14. Once the skin has formed, bake the macarons for 15-17 minutes.

15. Remove from oven and allow to cool before filling with buttercream, whipped cream, or ganache. (You can also dust them with icing sugar, cocoa, etc. for a little extra flavour. And to disguise any imperfections. Busted!)

Who knows how many this will make? It all depends on how big you pipe them and how many don’t turn out looking the way you want them to. (It happens. Just learn to live with it. Either that or lower your standards.)

A video of this recipe is also available - https://youtu.be/JlpQkK7lmO0.

And that’s the end of Season 1! Season 2 will begin on 5th June 2015. I hope to see you then! Please check in occasionally as I’ll likely be posting some additional entries in the interim.

17 April 2015

1.11 Tips #3 – Getting to Know Your Gadgets

I hope you’re enjoying the recipes so far, but alas the time has come once again for some more unsolicited advice.

Sometimes you’ll want to cook something special, but the idea of having to do so much work makes it seem impossible. For most of these jobs, there’s probably some sort of gadget that can do the work for you! I’ll share my opinions regarding which gadgets I believe every kitchen-star-in-the-making should have.

If you feel that you can sit this one out, I will be back with another recipe next week. For everyone else, please watch the video at https://youtu.be/3N67C4jC70s.

If anyone would like to share their own tips, or even if you just have a question, please do not hesitate to email me.

10 April 2015

1.10 Lamb & Roast Pumpkin Salad – Intermediate – Meat & Poultry

A fairly healthy, flavour-packed salad that should satisfy anyone. This isn’t to be served on the side. This IS the main event.

In my opinion, this dish is a good example of how simple flavours can complement one another.

I tend to do most of the preparation the night before. It isn’t that there is a lot to do, it’s just easier to do it that way, especially midweek.


300g lamb backstrap, diced
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
Zest of ½ lemon (unwaxed, of course!)
Pinch of salt and pepper

This dish is all about showcasing the flavours of good ingredients. Lamb backstrap can be expensive, but it has a great flavour. Use leg steak or fillet if you prefer. The pieces should be around 2.5cm (or 1 inch) square if possible.

You could use this meat for kebab skewers instead, and serve it with some nice tzatziki and pita bread.

The marinade is quite versatile and could also be used for lamb cutlets or a roast.


1. Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix until coated evenly. Cover, and place aside for at least 20 minutes. (For best results, refrigerate overnight and remove approx. 30 minutes before cooking.)

2. Fry in a pan over medium-high heat until well-browned on all sides. (You should not need to add oil to the pan, as there is oil in the marinade already.)

3. Place aside until it is time to assemble the salad. (It is best if the lamb is still hot or warm.)


300g pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and diced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried rosemary
Pinch of salt and pepper

This is just a guide for the people who’ve never roasted pumpkin before (I’m sure they’re out there). If you want to roast it a different way, then do it.

You can use whichever type of pumpkin you like, but as noted with last week’s recipe, I prefer to use butternut squash for convenience reasons. For aesthetic appeal, the pieces of pumpkin should be a bit smaller than the lamb pieces (say 1.5cm or 2/3 inch).


1. Preheat oven to 200°C (or 390°F), line a tray with baking paper and set aside.

2. Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix until coated evenly.

3. Place pumpkin cubes on the prepared baking tray and bake for approx. 25-35 minutes or until cooked through. (It’s okay if it browns a bit on the edges, but try to preserve the bright orange as much as possible.)

4. Place aside to cool until it is time to assemble the salad. (For best results, place in a covered container and refrigerate overnight. Remove approx. 30 minutes before cooking.)


60-70mL extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon (approx. 50-60ml)
Pinch of salt

Technically this can't be a vinaigrette as I don't use any vinegar, but the result is very much the same.

I like my salad dressings to have slightly more oil than lemon juice/vinegar, but this is just a preference.

Use as good of an extra virgin olive oil as you can get. It should be peppery enough that you don’t need to add any pepper to the dressing. I usually use the lemon that has been zested for the lamb marinade. Waste not!


1. Pour all ingredients into a bowl or jug and whisk until combined. (It should turn a bright greeny-yellow colour. I know that sounds gross, but it tastes amazing with this salad! You could also use a stick blender for this if you’re feeling lazy, I know I do it occasionally.)

2. Place aside until it is time to assemble the salad. (You may need to whisk/blend the dressing again if it starts to separate.)


70g baby spinach leaves
½ cup toasted pine nuts
100g fetta cheese, roughly crumbled

Feel free to use extra of any of these ingredients, this is just a guideline. As written, this recipe serves 2 people fairly generously.

I prefer to use sheep’s milk fetta as it has a sharper flavour than cow’s milk fetta and sets off the sweetness of the pumpkin really well, but you can use whatever type you like. Most imported Greek fetta is made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk, so it’s pretty decent.


1. Place some baby spinach leaves on each serving plate. (Remember: how many serves you get out of this is up to you.)

2. Spoon over the dressing. (Once again, you get to choose how much.)

3. Scatter a small handful (or more) of the toasted pine nuts over the spinach.

4. Repeat Step 3 with the pumpkin, then the lamb, and then the fetta. (You can make it look as pretty as you want, but this is all about the flavours.)

5. Time to eat! (TIP: Try to get a piece of everything on each forkful.)

Serves 1 really greedy person, or 2 normal people, or 3 “healthy” people.

A video of this recipe is also available - https://youtu.be/mz9_hMINVlg.

3 April 2015

1.09 Spiced Pumpkin & Walnut Muffins – Low-Fuss – Baking & Desserts

I went through a muffin phase at one point, and these quickly became my favourite. Slightly similar to carrot cake in flavour, and good for breakfast on the go (or just a quick snack).

There is nothing to stop you from using this mixture to bake a cake instead of muffins, but it may turn out a little dense.

2 cups white self-raising flour
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts
200g diced pumpkin
200g crème fraîche
200ml sunflower oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp mixed spice
1 tsp vanilla paste/extract/essence
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

I usually like to use raw or golden caster sugar when baking as I think it adds a mild hint of caramel, but plain caster sugar will suffice.

Use whatever pumpkin you like. I use butternut squash because it is a little sweeter, and can usually be bought already peeled, deseeded and diced, which is really handy! You can also just use a tinned mashed pumpkin, just make sure it’s as close to natural as possible.

If you can’t get crème fraîche, just substitute sour cream or buttermilk. If you can’t get sunflower oil (for some reason), substitute canola oil, corn oil, rice bran oil, grapeseed oil, macadamia oil, or just plain vegetable oil. Olive oil isn’t recommended for baking.


1. Preheat oven to 200°C (or 390°F) and line a 12-piece muffin tin with muffin papers.

2. Place the pumpkin in a microwave-proof bowl with a splash of water, cover, and microwave for 3-4 minutes or until soft.

3. Mash the pumpkin and leave aside until cool.

4. In a jug, whisk together the pumpkin, crème fraîche, oil, eggs and vanilla until combined.

5. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, walnuts, mixed spice, baking powder and salt until evenly distributed.

6. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold together until combined.

7. Evenly distribute the mixture amongst the muffin tins. (This is approximately 1/3-1/2 cup of the mixture per muffin. If you somehow have a lot of excess mixture, fill a few extra muffins up in another tin.)

8. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until golden on top and cooked through.

Serve warm or cold. Makes at least 12 muffins.

A video of this recipe is also available - https://youtu.be/uewlOG6G94E.